Saturday, September 26, 2009

Introducing Annabelle, and Her Ghostly Legend

Halloween is favorite time of year, and so I wanted to share with you my newest one of a kind art doll and her story:
There is a legend of a little girl named Annabelle, who lived 150 years ago in a dusty pueblo, sparsely populated with adobe shacks and false front wooden buildings. There were few trees, the town situated in a chapparal by the sea. Looking to the east, there was nothing but barren brown hills. Looking to the west, the ocean.
At the far end of the little pueblo, past the plaza where the townspeople gathered for bullfights, cockfights, dogfights, hangings, and fiestas stood a lonely brick mansion. The occupants, a large family with many children, were accustomed to the children of the town playing in their spacious yard, cooled by the shade of the pepper trees planted by the lady of the house.
One of the frequent playmates of the resident children was a little girl named Annabelle. Poor little Annabelle suffered a tragic day, whilst playing in the large yard of the mansion, she was running down the hill...probably engaged in a game of tag, or perhaps chasing the family dog Dolly. Not watching where she was heading, Annabelle ran into a low-slung clothesline, sagging perhaps from the weight of children hanging and swinging upon it during playtime.

Annabelle's trachea was crushed. The man of the house happened to be home at the time, shodding his horses in the adjacent corral, and saw the incident. He raced to Annabelle, brought her into the kitchen, laid her upon the table crying for his wife to attend her while he sought a doctor. Little Annabelle Washburn died upon that kitchen table. She is thought to have been about 12 years old.

It is said that over the course of the next 150 years, that the spirit of little Annabelle Washburn has never left the happy home of her dear playmates. She has been seen in a white dress, scampering about the yard, and skipping through the deserted halls of the old brick mansion.

'Tis said, that the warm, cozy kitchen where she passed from this world...and beyond the veil to the other...that strange, in-between place where time stands her favorite room in the house. Her most witnessed activity is that of moving the utensils hanging on the kitchen wall.

And her little footsteps scampering down the hallway. She seems to be happy there, and has no intention of leaving her ghostly playground.

But history must prevail, and while Annabelle Washburn did exist, and is buried in the same cemetery as the members of the family which built the legendary brick mansion...there's a few holes in her story.

The cemetery where she is buried did not exist at the time of her reported death. There were no families by the name of Washburn in the pueblo at the time the mansion's owner had small children. There is no record of her accident in the newspapers of the time, and a child's death in the house of a prominent citizen would have been big news.

Her gravestone indicates she was one month old when she died, hardly old enough to be running into anything. And her death took place nearly 50 years after the timeline of her story. So, here we must turn our back on the ghost of Annabelle, and send her away. For she is not real. She is truly a 'legend'. A make-believe story. A ghost story.

But do not leave this tale disappointed...for the brick mansion does indeed exist, and possesses unearthly spirits permanently contained within it's walls. There IS the wraith of a small girl child scampering about, chasing after a little dog...her identity finally solved.

She's a three year old girl, the great-granddaughter of the builder of the house. She found ant poison in the cupboard and ingested it. She died a horrifyingly painful and tragic death, and her mother, still living at the time her ancestral home was designated a historical museum, asked the curator not to discuss the family tragedies with the paying public.

Word got out that there was a little ghost inhabiting the museum, and to keep her word to the family, the curator simply made up a new identity for the child...and is presumed to have found this identity while walking about the graves of the home's owners...the grave of little Annabelle Washburn. What a pretty name to assign a child in the spiritual witness protection program! And who, pray tell... who would ever find this little lost grave in an old cemetery in the worst part of town, and question the story that could not be proven?

Little did the curator know, I was yet to be born. And find the grave I did, (accidentally) while... ironically, searching for the graves of the family who built the house the little girl supposedly haunts. She is their neighbor, and she is up the hill a bit....but that's where the truth about Annabelle ends.

Halloween is coming...and Annabelle is trapped in the netherworld of my cluttered workspace. She's pretty ticked off, and has a habit of hiding my scissors. Please do consider giving little Annabelle a real home of her own to haunt....quite frankly I have had it with her antics so I am listing her on ebay tomorrow! (username: robinseggbleu)

Annabelle is made of paperclay with a cloth body, in the style inspired by Izannah Walker's dolls, who, incidentally, Annabelle might actually have played with had she lived longer than one month. She's about 16 and a half inches tall. (Her clothes are made of vintage linens, and no historically significant textile was destroyed in order to dress her.)

I will provide more information about the brick mansion in a future post!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dimensions In Dollmaking @ San Diego Quilt Show

Well, showtime is here for IOLCC's Dimension In Dollmaking Exhibition at the annual San Diego Quilt Show, held at the San Diego Convention Center. I haven't been around to any of the quilting booths yet, but saw some delicious quilts on the way to OUR booth. The Quilt Show runs through Saturday, September 19th. If you live in the Southern California area, it's worth stopping by to take a peek...something for everyone! Quilts, notions, machines, luscious fabrics, trims, books, patterns, jewelry, garments, even shoes!

PLUS...our dolls! Our booth is always a big attention getter, and we love attention. We've got over 70 wonderful dolls displayed this year. Artists contribute from all over the nation, and some from overseas.

Our theme for this years show is "Make Me Laugh". I know a while back I produced a somewhat snippy post about the theme, how I expected there to be 60 clowns there. To my pleasant surprise, the typical, garden variety circus clown was elusive this year. Although a clown in the style of Cirque de Soleil would have been pretty cool. Gotta love the French. We had a jester, and a Punch & Judy, and a mournful little hobo. All fabulous.

I really enjoyed so many original interpretations on the theme. These artists went all out this year and it was eye candy! I've posted most of them here so you can see the variety of dolls and the wonderful talent of the artists.

You can see my Project Runway Losing Hatbox Dress challenge doll above. She's supposed to be Kathy Selden jumping out of the Monumental Pictures Cake at the beginning of Singing In The Rain...but unfortunately, she looks like she stepped out of an Esther Williams pool set and found a nice cake skirt to wear. I just don't do 'whimsical' very well.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Very First Izannah Walker Doll

I joined the Izannah Walker Dolls Group and decided that I finally would challenge myself to attempt to create my own version of the classic Izannah Walker Doll.
I finished her on 09-09-09. Thought that was kind of neat.
I took a poll on names for her and was offered some very good examples, and almost named her Annabelle. But last night, my little dolly told me that her name is Araminta. I named her after a member of one of my favorite historical San Diego pioneer families. Araminta was one of 10 children and she died as a toddler circa 1832. She's buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. Her family owned much of the land which became New York's Central Park. She is dressed in antique mourning fabric. With a string of coral beads for good luck in her next life.
My dollies can never just be dollies. They insist on being somebody.
Araminta is made of paperclay and cloth, and handpainted to look a little aged.

She's about 15 inches tall, the smallest size of doll made by Izannah Walker. Her clothing is all antique fabrics. No antique garment of historical importance or significance was mutilated in the creation of Araminta's clothing. She is wearing the classic child's dress with gathered bodice, bell sleeves, tiny self-fabric piping at the neckline and waistband. Her dress has tiny black hook-and-eye closure. Her false hem is made from antique brown polished cotton.

Araminta's underpinnings are made from one very stained and hole ridden antique petticoat. She's got it all: chemise, drawers and petticoat.

She's wearing the striped stockings so popular amongst the girls back then; no plain jane white stockings for this gal. Her little boots are the early square-toed type made on a straight last. Meaning, no actual 'left' and 'right' shoe. Sort of Balmoral style lace ups. I added paperclay to her feet to create her boots.
Most folks in the Doll Making World know who Izannah Walker is. For those who don't, Izannah was a single woman who made a career of dollmaking in the mid-nineteenth century. She received a patent for a special set of metal dies/dyes (sp?) to form an indestructible 'soft' doll. She was a woman ahead of her time, and wished she'd been born a man to enjoy all the priveledges that came with the luck of being born a Victorian male.
Her dolls are very primitive and unique...they have their own soul. They are my favorite of all historical dolls. No two are alike. Izannah put her three sisters to work painting the faces of these dolls so they are all just a little different. Like sisters themselves.
I'd post some photos of original Izannah dolls here, but most, if not all of the images I found on the web are copyrighted...I don't want to get into trouble for posting them. But you can look her up and discover her yourself, if you are not familiar...but will probably fall in love with them!

I have listed Araminta on ebay today, so please stop by and check her out! If you are interested in giving her a home, stop username is: robinseggbleu.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Finally finished off those IOLCC Dolls!

"Anita Goode-Laffe"

This years Imitation Of Life Construction Company's "Dimensions In Dollmaking" show at the San Diego Convention Center (courtesy of the FABULOUS San Diego Quilt Show) gave a theme challenge of "Make Me Laugh". I have said it before, and repeat my prior disclaimer....I don't do 'funny'. I don't do 'whimsical'. Heck, I pretty much don't even do 'color'. I was totally disenchanted with this years theme. So when I lack interest in something, I basically don't even bother with it. I become lazy and don't hand in my best work. Lifelong flaw.

So here's my 'lazy'. I did finish a doll long before begun and abandoned in my drawers. There's nothing funny about her. She represents a real person, who though in possession of a fabulous sense of humor, suffered through much heartache and tragedy. This tragedy is behind why she is believed to have never really left her old home. I'll go into more detail about who she really is closer to Halloween.

At any rate, this woman's countenance did not portray the happy moments in her life. She became a dour, pinched (albeit extraordinarily well dressed) version of her younger self. And who can blame her? Her husband became abusive, her toddler died in her arms, her daughter committed suicide, her son became a town drunk who hung out in the red light district, her other daughter died young leaving two children to raise, her granddaughter was killed at the age of 8, her wee 3 year old great granddaughter found poison (at grandma's house). I could go on, but it's too depressing.

So, if anyone needs a laugh or a happy moment, it's obviously this poor woman. So she decided to attend this doll show with her own challenge to the other dolls: 'make me laugh...PLEASE', she says to them. I gave her a tacky case anyone doesn't understand why she's attending the show. I presume anyone reading her name will get it. And if they don't, I suppose I am too tired of getting ready for this show to really care?

"Anita" is made of cloth over wire armature, with head, arms and legs made of Creative Paperclay. This is a papier-mache type air drying clay. I LOVE this stuff. Her clothing is all handmade, much of it antique fabric and trims from items too fargone to salvage in their original condition. I never cut up historically significant or displayable garments or fabrics. If it's already falling apart or dismantled, I go for the gold. Her hat is made from antique fabric and trims as well as her parasol. Not having parasol skills, this one doesn't open. Her 'floor' is actually taken from the entry hall of her old home. Ashlar block pattern in faux marble. She represents the time period of 1885-1890.

"The Belle Of Amherst"
(Better known as Emily Dickinson)
Yes, here's another gal who was a real person who could have used a few more laughs in her life. Not the happiest persona. So that's how she got here too. Plus, she 'told' me that is who she wanted to be and there's just no getting around that. Lucky her, she gets to keep her real identity. That poor Anita is a local San Diegan and would be embarrassed to be seen out trying to have a good time when in mourning. Just another reason to keep her anonymous at this time.

So, Emily is also made of Paperclay. Her clothing is all handsewn. Mostly from modern fabrics. Her dress is reproduction cotton from about 1840. Antique lace at collar and cuffs. Changeable silk taffeta bonnet with antique lace. She's wearing 'coral' beads because she could use some good karma. Really what she needs is to get out more often. I had to literally drag her kicking and screaming out of my house to get her to attend this show.

I failed to get a full length shot of her, but that doesn't matter because I am a pretty lousy photographer and all my photos make my girls look like they are short legged when in fact they are not. She's holding a book, that represents her poetry. Really, I stole it from poor Alice Liddell and painted out the Alice In Wonderland title. Hadn't gotten 'round to 'recovering' the book for her at the time I took these pictures. I didn't feel like making another book. See....LAZY.

I am not showing any photos of my third entry, which I did SORT of attempt to accomodate the theme of the show. I made Kathy Seldon (Singing in the Rain) jumping out of the Monumental Pictures cake at the beginning of the film. It's the most 'whimsical' thing I have attempted and failed miserably in production. She just looks like she's standing there wearing a cake dress. So, she got into the show by default because they were running short on entries. She's a mercy entry. Who looks like she's got the losing Hatbox Challenge dress from Project Runway.
If you live in the San Diego or Southern California area and love textiles, quilts, modern and antique, artistry and dolls....PLEASE come to the Annual San Diego Quilt Show at the San Diego Convention Center! It runs September 16th-19th. It's a fabulous show, has something for neary everyone. Heck, I might even go.